Making Sense of Diabetes

The cells in our bodies such as those found in our muscles need energy to grow and do what they do. One source of energy starts when we eat carbohydrate rich food such as bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruit, milk and yoghurt. In a normal situation these foods are broken down in our digestive system into glucose, a sugar. This sugar is what is needed by the cells, but it can’t get into them without a special key insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas and its job is to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood.

In a person who has diabetes one of two things happens. Either they do not produce enough or any insulin to regulate the amount of glucose (Type 1) or their body’s cells don’t respond to the insulin key (Type 2). The result for both these events is the same, there is a back-up of glucose in the bloodstream high blood sugar. If our cells aren’t getting the energy they need then we will naturally feel tired and rundown. Prolonged high blood sugar can cause serious complications resulting in damage to the organs of our body (the heart, kidneys, nervous system and eyes).

Type 1 is the least common form of diabetes and characterised by an early and sudden onset usually before the age of 20.  In this instance a person’s immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that create insulin. As a result, these people need to inject insulin regularly to supplement the deficiency.

Type 2 is the most common form (above 80%) and usually a late gradual onset affecting adults. People with this condition produce enough insulin but their cells are not responsive and can’t take up the glucose. There is usually a genetic link to the development of this form of diabetes, but there is also a strong link with unhealthy lifestyle factors such as poor diet, smoking and being overweight (having a beer gut) and being inactive. Medication is available to treat this form of diabetes alongside recommended lifestyle changes.

We always encourage blokes to go and see their GP if they fit any of the above categories and/or have a family history of diabetes. This is especially important if they are experiencing any of the common symptoms of diabetes including constant thirst and peeing a lot, feeling run down a lot of the time, headaches, blurred vision and cuts that take ages to heal properly. Sometimes these symptoms can be quite mild in people who are in the early stages of developing diabetes (prediabetes).

If you have a family history of diabetes or concerns about any of the above symptoms don’t wait, go and chat with your GP about having your blood sugar checked. It could save you a lot of grief down the track.

Brenden and the Team

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401
Phone: 08 9690 2277
Email: menshealth@4blokes.com.au
www.regionalmenshealth.com.au